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Subject: Re: Tempos, tempi
From: Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 4 Feb 2018 19:39:12 -0500
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Lots of great insight from everyone contributing to this topic. 

I agree that balance is important. A conductor should have thoughts on how he wants to 
shape the piece, both in detail and in an overall sense. But IMO a good conductor is also a 
good collaborator, and will take the singers' needs into account. A good opera conductor 
MUST understand singing technique, so that issues of breathing, articulation, and vocal 
demands (in both individual passages and in full roles) are taken into account. The length 
of a high note can be debated - but if a singer needs more time to breathe (or a slightly 
faster tempo so as to sing more economically on a breath), to me that is not negotiable - 
that has to happen. 

And of course there are times when a conductor indeed needs to be able to accompany - 
orchestrally-accompanied recitatives ("accompagnato" recits) for instance, and singers' 
cadenzas and ornamentations, etc. (And, in some cases, how to provide supportive secco 
recit from a keyboard, if the conductor is also taking on that role.)

In a new production with ample rehearsal, all of this will be worked out in rehearsals - but 
in the case of replacement singers (or conductors), sometime there is little to no time to 
go over much more than the most complex moments of a score beforehand - so knowing 
how to sense the need for adjustments in "real time" is also crucial. It is certainly not the 
case of "follow the baton and that's it" - the conductor must be ready to accommodate 
what he is hearing from the stage, as well as guide the singers to stay in a tempo that 
may be slightly different than they're used to, albeit quite do-able. 

Of course, similar give-and-take and overall decisions apply to instrumental soloists as 
well - from any concerto, to an operatic featured solo like the Thais "Meditation." A 
conductor who doesn't collaborate with that Thais concertmaster in such a moment, or 
who blindly dictates the tempo of a concerto movement, will not be looked on kindly by 
the orchestra, let alone the soloist. 

Also, of course, in a rep house like the Met, where productions are often led by several 
conductors over a season, or in subsequent seasons, they must be clear enough with 
their communication so that small changes can be read by an orchestra and singers who 
have done these scores before in different ways, and who will tend to do, by human 
nature, what they are used to, instead of being able to remember every nuance a 
different conductor wants to bring to that music. 

In essence, one of the most crucial skills of any conductor is to be so aware of his 
colleagues (vocal and instrumental) in any moment that he can help THEM do their best 
work. 


On Sun, 4 Feb 2018 14:05:36 -0800, Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>Even if we agree that the conductor is “in charge,” there also has to be common 
sense relative to accommodation. If the conductor believes the composer really wanted a 
very brisk tempo for something like the Trov Leonora’s “Di tale amor” but his 
brisk tempo makes the singer crash and burn, that’s surely NOT what the composer 
wanted.
>
>On the other hand, tasteless extension of phrases and high notes, distorting the shape 
and flow just so the singer can show they can do it is gross and a good conductor will put 
his foot down, even if it is a celebrity singer.
>
>Max Paley
>
>Sent from my iPhone
>
>> On Feb 4, 2018, at 13:56, Ariane Csonka <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> 
>> Roberta is right about Conductors and especially accompanists accommodating 
singers in recitals and orchestral performances.  However in opera (as Toscanini insisted) 
the singer is part of a whole, a column in the infrastructure.  He or she may see a high 
note or a phrase as being vital to her applause, but the conductor must consider the pace 
- and ideally the dynamics - as building the architecture of the total effect of the work.
>> Which doesn’t stop them from arguing!  And generally singers do what they want 
and are able to do, when the actual performance begins.
>> Did no one notice that Radvansky was often behind the conductor in the Norma?  He 
accommodated her, it would have been terrible had he not.  She was reveling in the 
moment, and so were we all.
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